Federal government provides funding to divert surplus table potatoes from P.E.I

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A cross-border trade issue with P.E.I seed and table potatoes seems likely to extend long past the winter season, as Canadian Food Inspection Agency says that providing the U.S. with the testing data it requires may take until 2023.

Canada preemptively banned the sale of seed potatoes out of P.E.I in late November, after the U.S. threatened to take aggressive measures in blocking potato sales from Canada after two positive case of potato wart in P.E.I.

Under the ministerial order, fresh potatoes are allowed out of P.E.I. to other provinces, but the U.S. border is closed to all but processed potatoes.

The potato industry says the rule is costing them millions, and has created a surplus of fresh potatoes that will need to be moved out of storage before next summer.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minster Marie-Claude Bibeau announced on Monday, December 20, that the federal government is committing $28 million to helping find those table potatoes a home in Canada, to ease “the financial and mental stress” the situation is causing.

The funding will be used to divert potatoes to food banks and other options, the minister says. Details will be released in the coming weeks as to how producers can access funding.

Minister Bibeau added that P.E.I potato farmers are already enrolled in several of the business risk management suite programs, such as AgriStability and AgriInsurance. She noted that the province’s potato farmers also have an average of $90,000 available in their AgriInvest accounts.

Prior to this announcement, the government had provided an extended window for P.E.I. farmers to enrol in each of the programs, retroactively.

It’s not immediately clear exactly what data the U.S. is demanding; the minister would only say that CFIA is working on accumulating the testing and data required.

AAFC says that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will continue to make science-based data and details of its investigation into the October 2021 detections available to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to highlight the strengths of Canada’s Potato Wart Domestic Long Term Management Plan.

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